Archive | February, 2014

Memories…

27 Feb

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Isn’t it interesting the things which hold memories for each of us? For me this old kitchen dresser which I’ve had for about 27 years holds a lot of items…each with their own little scene in my mind’s eye. The cups hanging from the hooks are Arklow pottery.  Arklow pottery features high in my childhood memories. We had several sets of it as I grew up in Tipperary. I particularly remember 2 sets… one with a pheasant design and another set which had a green background with a tree of life design in black. Sadly none of it is left now.  These floral cups are my real favourites now. I always watch out for them at car boot fairs and in charity shops but they are fairly hard to come by these days.

Arklow Pottery was set up in Arklow, Co. Wicklow in 1935. It was taken over by the Japanese firm Noritake in the nineties but sadly production ceased in 1999.

There was murmurings of  an Arklow Pottery Museum being set up but that alas never came about.

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Every old Irish house used to have one of the Willow Pattern platters. Traditionally used to present the turkey at Christmas. The 2 blue bottles we dug up in the garden of the first house we had here in Roscommon. The white mug Andy bought at a school fete 37 years ago. The Thelwell transfers on it were bought at the same fete. A lovely combination and a lovely memory.

The big mug with the blue and red flowers belonged to my paternal Grandmother…she died in 1980. I always think of her when this mug catches my eye.

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This little pottery doggie was a gift from a small child. She is now a fashionable teenager.

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The pottery with the butterflies is Aynsley which I collected in the 80s. These pieces were presents from my brother Tommy. The little jug with the crocuses is by English potter Clarice Cliff. Picked up at a car boot for £3.

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I really love this little set with it’s nursery rhymes…See saw Margery Daw and Little Jack Horner sat in the corner. The full set would be lovely but I only have these three pieces which were picked up at an auction.

The tall blue coffee pot was bought on my one and only visit to London’s Portobello Road market sometime in the 80s. That was the occasion of my first visit to the big city of London.I ‘m afraid I didn’t fall in love with it like many people do. Thoroughly enjoyed the city holiday but it’s the country life for me.

I look forward to Summer coming when I once again will peruse the car boot fairs searching for more treasures to add to my collection.

Imagine…

23 Feb

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“Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

John Lennon, Imagine.

The joys of Spring.

22 Feb

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Snowdrops in bloom…a sign that Spring is really here. An exciting time when the possibilities of the year ahead open up in front of us. A time for sowing seeds and watching the new growth enliven our gardens and the wider landscape once again. The longer days fill our hearts and souls with joy and enthusiasm.

The botanical name for the common Snowdrop is Galanthus nivalis. Galanthus is of Greek origin and means milk white flower. Nivalis is a Latin word meaning resembling snow.

Superstition says it is unlucky to bring those pretty flowers indoors.

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Rhubarb has also poked it’s head above ground. Hard to believe those little buds will turn into those gigantic stalks and leaves. In gardening books it is always classified as a vegetable but for me a plant that can be used to make delicious tarts, crumbles and jams is definitely a fruit.

Apparently Rhubarb grows all year round in warm climates. It’s only the cold Winters of our temperate climate which make it retreat underground.

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In the polytunnel the Swiss Chard is still producing lots of leaves…

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and Winter Purslane sends forth it’s little leaves full of Vitamin C. At this time of year I really crave salads and dream of Summer days when they will be plentiful again. I look forward to the joy of watching those first heads of Summer Lettuce grow.

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Periwinkle didn’t die back at all this year and is already producing its pretty little blue flowers.

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By the front door multi coloured Primulas are bright and cheerful. These will be planted out in the garden after flowering and will hopefully form clumps and continue to flower for many more years.

The storm…

12 Feb

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A fierce storm hit Ireland today. The strongest wind speed was recorded at Shannon Airport…150 kms per hour. A tornado struck in Athleague and then went on to Roscommon town where about 100 trees were uprooted and houses were damaged. People interviewed on the radio said it was like a plane coming in to land.

We are lucky here to be sheltered to the west and south by the forest. It was still an indoor day though. Andy ventured out to walk the dogs and bring in fuel for the stoves.

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I made the house smell of Summer by using the last Strawberries from the freezer to make jam. I’ve had that Strawberry shaped jar for years. Saw it in a supermarket in Rathdowney full of jam and just had to have it. Every year since it has been filled and refilled with the preserve of Summer days.

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At five o clock our electricity went. Luckily we had lots of candles in stock. Dinner was cooked by candlelight on the gas hob…a hearty bean stew enjoyed in the shadowy flickering light.  I find candlelight so nice…softer and more atmospheric than the cold impersonal light from electricity. The old Irish people used to say that the spirits left the houses when electricity arrived.

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Amazingly the power cut only lasted about two hours for us. I know a lot of people in the south are still without electricity. Watching the TV news just now it seems they took the brunt of those high winds. Many trees down throughout Cork and Kerry. Lots of damage to buildings too. Thankfully no lives have been lost. The same storm is also battering the UK. England is now in the midst of a national crisis due to the severe flooding.   Another storm is forecast for the weekend. When? Oh when will it ever end?

Save our Planet…plant more Trees.

10 Feb

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The weather is the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment. Since before Christmas we have been battered by Atlantic storms. Another one is building out there…reckoned to strike on Wednesday. This morning we had snow.

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It was pretty for the short time it lasted… soon to be washed away by rain. Then there was a period of sunshine. All the seasons in one day.

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The rain has been so constant this Winter…it wears one down. So hard for farmers and animals not to mind the folks whose homes have been flooded here in Ireland and in England. Visiting Tipperary last week it was amazing to see lakes where they never were. At least the Swans are happy.

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Great article in The Guardian newspaper today about this whole topic. You can read it here  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/13/flooding-public-spending-britain-europe-policies-homes

In the article George Monbiot talks about how European Union agricultural policies are adding to the flooding woes. I presume the same policies apply here in Ireland.

“Water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate it sinks into the soil under grass. The roots of the trees provide channels down which the water flows deep into the ground.”

I always believed trees were an important part of protecting the land but this is an astonishing fact to contemplate. The message is clear…planting trees helps protect our Planet.

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Further into the article it is revealed that if you are to receive your Single Farm Payment (from European Union), the largest component in farm subsidies, the land has to be free of  “unwanted vegetation.” This includes tree cover.

So…with no trees and shrubs to slow down the rain run off it all flows straight down the hills…probably taking topsoil with it…into the rivers and into the towns and villages causing….yes! you’ve guessed it…flooding.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s crazy to be driving landowners into removing tree cover from land. It leaves the land without shelter for wildlife and farm animals not to mind the damage to the land itself. I think the people in Brussels who devise these policies need some new advisors…preferably ones with some love of the Planet and maybe an interest in Permaculture…as opposed to a love of money. Production is their only goal…and it seems like it’s damn the consequences.

Return of the Light.

1 Feb

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Spring is here!  Time to come out of hibernation and become busy outdoors again. However even though plants are budding and evenings are getting longer, I fear it will be a little while yet before we can do any outdoor garden work.  The land is wet, very wet, not as wet as Somerset in south west England though. Many homes and even whole farms have been flooded there since before Christmas. So horrible for people and animals.

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Here in Ireland St. Brigid’s Day is set to be marked by yet another storm. A day of high winds, rain and even the possibility of snow if the Met Office get it right.

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For us February 1st…Imbolc…marks one year here at Flynn’s Cottage. The cottage has been through a lot of changes in the last year. The biggest job was removing all the decoupage from the walls. What a task! It seemed to go on forever. We were so glad when that last wall was done. It now feels like our home rather than a cottage that came into our possession just one year ago. The process of turning a house into a home is complete. We had planned a day out tomorrow to celebrate our first year but we shall see what the weather is doing before making the final decision.

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“It’s Spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want. but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”    Mark Twain

Happy 1st of February…Imbolc…Spring to all who visit here. May it truly arrive soon.

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